PARIS – Describing US and Australian behavior as “unacceptable among allies and partners”, France announced on Friday it would withdraw its ambassadors to both countries in protest of President Biden’s decision to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. is calling.
In 1778 it was the first time in the history of the long alliance between France and the United States that a French ambassador had been thus called back to Paris for consultation. President Emmanuel Macron’s decision reflects the extent of French outrage it has called a “brutal” US decision and a “stab in the back” from Australia.
In a statement, France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said the decision was made by Mr Macron, angered by the way the United States, Britain and Australia negotiated the deal without informing France. is understood in.
Australia on Wednesday canceled a $66 billion agreement with Washington and London to buy French-built, conventionally operated submarines, hours before the deal was announced.
“At the request of the President of the Republic, I have decided to recall my two ambassadors to the United States and Australia back to Paris for consultation,” the statement said. “This extraordinary decision is justified by the extraordinary seriousness of the announcements made by Australia and the United States on 15 September.”
Tensions between Europe and the Trump administration over issues including climate change, Vladimir Putin’s role in Russia and the European Union have never deteriorated to the point of recalling the European ambassador.
The temporary withdrawal of ambassadors to Paris amounts to a severe diplomatic reprimand usually used against opponents. Mr Le Drian clarified that his country viewed the actions of the United States and Australia as a serious breach of trust.
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In an editorial, the leading French daily, Le Monde, said: “For anyone who still doubts this, the Biden administration is no different from the Trump administration on this point: the United States comes first, whether strategic, Be it in the economic, financial or health sector. ‘America First’ is the guiding line of the White House’s foreign policy.
The Biden administration, bent on reining in China’s growing power, sees the nuclear submarine deal as a way to bolster ties with a Pacific ally, which is increasingly with Beijing, as well as to shore up that ally. Making it more powerful.
National Security Council spokeswoman Emilie Horn said: “We are in close contact with our French partners on our decision to recall Ambassador Etienne to Paris for consultations. We understand their position and will discuss our differences in the coming days. Will be engaged to resolve, as we have done at other points during our long alliance.”
She was referring to the veteran diplomat Philippe Etienne, who is the French ambassador to Washington.
The United States is determined to ease the rift with France, painting the conflict as just another disagreement between friends. However, France sees the US decision as not only offensive in its covert preparations, but also signals a fundamental strategic shift that calls into question the nature of the Atlantic alliance.
“Our alliances, our partnerships and our perception of the importance of the Indo-Pacific to Europe will only be affected,” Mr Le Drian’s statement said. Where France previously believed it could work hand in hand with the United States in confronting China, it is now reconsidering that approach, despite French reservations on perceived American aggression.
Mr Macron had made growing French ties with Australia a cornerstone of a strategy to expand Europe’s role in meeting the challenge of China’s rise. Because an American company, Lockheed Martin, was a partner in the French submarine deal with Australia reached in 2016, the contract was seen in Paris as an example of how France and United could work together in Asia.
That belief has now been shredded, replaced by a measure of bitterness, skepticism and unreliability that the Biden administration will treat France as it is.
A senior French diplomatic official called the outcome a crisis in French-American relations. He said French foreign and defense ministers had tried in vain to reach out to their American counterparts a week ago and talk to them on Monday or Tuesday.
He also said that until Mr Macron received a letter on Wednesday morning from the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, informing him that the French submarine deal had been scrapped, Australia had given no indication that it was out of the deal. Will be done.
He said Australia had asked in June whether France believed its attack-class submarines were still prepared to face the threats they might face, and accepted French assurances that they would Were. US officials have suggested that Australia made it clear to France in early June that the deal was dead.
US officials are believed to have informed the French on Wednesday morning, hours before Mr Biden’s deal was announced. He also said that top US officials had unsuccessfully tried to schedule meetings with their French counterparts before news of the deal leaked to the Australian and US press – a mirror image of the French claim.
In the face of a disastrous dispute, both sides were trying to pass the blame. However, it seems clear that France was blindsided by the Friends on an issue of vital strategic and economic importance.
In a briefing with reporters on Friday before the French government announced the recall, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield underestimated the damage done to ties between the two countries.
“As the president said, we cooperate closely with France on shared priorities in both the Indo-Pacific and we will continue to do so here at the Security Council,” she said. “Good friends have disagreements, but that is the nature of friendship and that is – because you are friends, you can disagree and continue to work on those areas of cooperation.”
She added: “We don’t see those tensions changing the nature of our friendship.”
In Paris, however, there was no sign of words like “cooperation” and no sign that France was prepared to declare anything remotely resembling trade as usual.
Mr Macron faces an election in seven months’ time. The manner in which he reacts will be closely watched, with right-wing nationalists challenging him hard, being portrayed here as a grave disgrace.
The French president will certainly turn to his European allies, and Germany in particular, as he re-evaluates the Western Alliance and Asian policy.
As Le Monde put it, “Beyond French sensibilities, it is Europe’s place and its role in the world that are in question. Where does Europe stand in the global restructuring shadow of the US-China conflict?”